Last watchalong post! These did not get as many views/comments as I thought they would, so I am debating whether I should start another one. Let me know what you think!
The story in this episode breaks down into two neat halves, the wedding and then the personal. The wedding is the big political wedding we have been hearing about for the past several episodes. The bride is acting strangely, Arjun and Sobhita and Shashank are suspicious, they secretly pass her a note and get a note back asking them to “call John”. They meet with him, he is her college boyfriend, a Christian from Kerala. Her family doesn’t approve because he is “only” an engineer, and they need the political alliance. Her older sister fell in love too, and they had her boyfriend killed and she committed suicide. John and the bride don’t know what to do. Shashank manages to speak to the bride and warn her she is being drugged, and then they manage to sneak her out that night in a crowd of Hijras. The next day, she is married in a church to her boyfriend, and then goes outside to face the media and tell them that if anything happens to her, they should blame her father. After this triumph, all of our central characters feel an extra strength to go after what they want in their own lives. Shivani speaks to Shashank and asks if he really likes her or if he likes the woman she has just discovered he is living with more, Shashank says he loves his girlfriend, so at the end Shivani goes back to her mechanic boyfriend and smiles. Sobhita finally confronts Jim and leaves him, after telling him that she set up the leaked video to begin with, she’s tricked him into this whole thing. Arjun reaches out to his first love from high school and they meet in a hotel, he apologizes and they make love and then say good-bye. Arjun returns to the offices to find them vandalized by Hindutva terrorists, Sobhita finds him there, and reveals that she left Jim but took a bag stuffed with jewels with her, they will be fine.
Did anyone else notice that the length of the episodes varied? It’s one of the luxuries of streaming instead of traditional broadcast, you can make an episode a few minutes longer if the story requires it. And this is an episode with a lot of story, so it is a lot longer.
There is only one bit that doesn’t really fit in tidily, that probably could have been cut, but it is so fun that I don’t care. Sobhita finally confesses to Jim that they gave a 10% stake to Vijay Raaz and Vijay is coming to the investors presentation the next day. And Vijay comes ready to PLAY. He confronts them over spending so much money on upfront costs like the fancy office, and when Jim tries to shut him up, Vijay turns to confront Jim on how his own company is in trouble, revealing that his wife owns a 3% stake in Jim’s company. Vijay is way more than he appears on the surface, and he may be the financial guiding hand that Jim has failed to be to the company. Mostly though, this scene is super fun for how we get to see pretentious know-it-all Jim get schooled by an old-school money man, one who is officially a “plumber” but probably has his finger in more industries one way or another than Jim does. Including Vijay calling Jim out on the way he is constantly sending little sneak attacks in his conversations, when Jim mentions something about Arjun’s jail term, and Vijay confronts him with “why would you say that? Why would you remind the boy that happened?” It’s just great, and I don’t care that it has no real plot or thematic point.
The structure really shouldn’t work, this clear line between the first and second half of the narrative, and yet it does. We are carried along like the characters, the triumph of the impossible wedding escape brings us into wanting them to finally confront the issues in their own lives, escape from their own traps. And to do that, they first have to confront their own “original sin”. Interesting that theme comes up in the episode with the first Christian wedding.
Shashank’s story first, because it is the most surprising and satisfying to me. In the last episode, Shashank defended Shivani and then tried to hug and comfort her, and she pushed him off, saying he wasn’t what she wanted for her life, she was worried he was falling in love. In this episode, she dresses up nicely for a party at his house, and arrives to discover a crowd of young people, passing a bong, and Shashank casually kissing his live-in girlfriend. He’s a jerk, basically. He may be kind (mostly) at work, to his co-workers and the clients, but at heart he thinks he is better than them, all of them. He doesn’t see them as real people. We saw that already in the Ludhiana episode, he teases Arjun, and Arjun argues back that he doesn’t deserve this, he has been kind of Shashank and let him edit his documentary on their equipment (voice over semi-explanation), no reason for Shashank to feel so superior. And in the same episode, Shashank has to admit that he didn’t really care about the bride, thought her situation was funny, until he came to realize how difficult it was. Shashank learns that lesson again when he sees Shivani’s home and discovers just how desperate her situation is. And yet it doesn’t seem to have sunk in.
Shivani came to his house thinking he might be introducing her to his family, only to discover it is a crowd of stoner young people. Shashank doesn’t greet her, make her feel welcome, or even realize he has done something wrong. Maybe he did all of this to get back at her for rejecting him, that’s pretty terrible, because he was pursuing her, she had a right to think so and to respond. Even worse, maybe it didn’t even occur to him, maybe he lives in the moment so much and floats through life, that the connection of a poor girl he had sex with at work maybe being hurt when she meets his girlfriend and sees his life didn’t ever happen. I don’t know where Shashank will go in the next series, but it’s an interesting journey from him as the wise noble poor soul to him as the pretentious stoner ass. That’s his original sin, and he doesn’t really make up for it in this episode, just reveals it.
I am so glad Shivani gets past Shashank and back to her garage boyfriend. It could have looked like regressing, only we end with her smile, curled up in his arms. Instead, it feels like Shashank got her turned around, unclear in her own mind as to what she wanted. She confessed her own “original sin” to a priest when they are arranging the church for the wedding. We don’t hear her confession, but we don’t need to, all we need to know is that she comes out smiling and feeling better. It could be sleeping with Shashank without loving him, it could be sleeping with her garage boyfriend when she could do better, it could be stealing from the company to buy clothes, or something we don’t even know about yet. But she feels cleansed, and so she can talk openly to Shashank and ask him if he cares for her, at all. And understand when he says “no”, not just understand that he isn’t interested, but that he doesn’t deserve her. She can go back to her old love with a clean heart, knowing he really is the best man in her life. At least, that’s how I read her ending.
And then there’s Sobhita. As I feared, it is revealed that she was the one who released the sex tape that lead to Jim’s engagement ending and them starting a relationship for real. But far more important is the reveal of how he came to propose to her. It was the night Kalki lent her the fancy dress, the first time she was really dressed “right”. And she tells him she is sorry, so sorry, he did nothing wrong, and she ruined his whole life. That’s her persona then, that’s how she got him. As the innocent secretary who was seduced into loving him, who was grateful for the crumbs he tossed her way, who was humble and sweet and turned out to be the best wife he could have. It wasn’t as a beautiful temptress, it was as the helpless but dignified woman he could mold.
What really matters though, in this flashback and in Sobhita’s memory as she thinks of it, is that this was happening the night Kalki got engaged. And Jim was looking at Kalki, only Kalki. In this episode she finally acknowledges and understands her real sin. It’s not that she tricked Jim into marrying her, she has been a wonderful wife to him in every way and truly came to love him, and he was the one who decided to cheat on his fiancee in the first place. It’s certainly not breaking up his engagement which was lifeless and doomed from the start. No, it is being the distraction between him and Kalki. Kalki is Muslim, Jim is Hindu. They are part of the same group of friends, the same social class, but it goes without saying that marriage would be a special effort. Not impossible, but an effort, and Jim is bad at making an effort. If Sobhita hadn’t been there those years ago, maybe Kalki would have been the one to break up Jim’s engagement (we heard in an earlier episode about her throwing away the engagement ring), maybe they could have been together and happy all this time. Maybe Kalki wouldn’t be struggling with the after effects of an abusive marriage. Maybe all along it has been about Jim running to Kalki, not away from Sobhita or his fiancee before her. That is Sobhita’s sin, coming between these two people. But then, she did put in the work on this marriage, and he did break her heart, and she was “paid” in jewels every time (the opening of the episode is her mother-in-law giving her another necklace), so why not take her payment and run with it? Back to the person she “fits” with, as she says Kalki and Jim fit, Arjun.
Arjun has had his own confession and forgiveness. Back in high school, he abandoned his boyfriend, lied that it was one sided, even wrote hate speech on his locker. And his boyfriend was transferred out of school, never to be seen again. They are meeting now, the boyfriend (Vikrant Massay, for those devout fans out there) says right away that he is married, living a happy “normal” life. But their connection is so intense that any pretense of normal small talk falls away quickly, Arjun says he is sorry, so sorry for what he did. And Vikrant admits he has hated him for all these years. And then they make love. This is the sex scene I was waiting for, one that is loving and sexy and gentle all at once. Not just “oh look, two men having sex!” but instead “oh look, two old lovers reuniting”.
And speaking of “original sin”, that’s a bit what this wedding is as well. Every wedding this season has had some bitterness in with the sweet. But they have all been voluntary. The bride and groom both, of their own free will, made the decision to accept this marriage. Their reasons may not have been “true love”, but it was still their decision in the end. But the great sin that the Indian way of marriage hides, the marriages that are arranged by families and involve alliances and money and society more than the couple, is that sometimes the couple doesn’t agree. Specifically, usually, the bride doesn’t agree. The wedding has the shadow of politics over it, but I don’t think politics is the point. It’s just a means to an end. All over India there are brides being forced into marriages against their will. But in this show for these characters, they have the power to save almost all those brides. We saw that in the earlier episodes, they gave them a choice, they were ready to call the police, to call a lawyer, to do whatever the bride wanted without regard to her family. The only bride they cannot save is this woman, daughter of a powerful political family with its fingers in the police, the courts, everywhere. The political setting is just to get to that, the end all of Delhi society, the one group that is truly untouchable, above the industrialists and the royals.
And the solution is to set against them the other group that is untouchable, the group that is so low nothing more can be done to them, those in power don’t even see them, the Hijras. Hijras are there at every wedding, unnoticed but also impossible to reject, in order to bless the bride and groom. They come in the back door, the shove the groom around, they isolate the bride, and they take her away before anyone has noticed. The lowest saves the highest.
That’s where we end this series, with those who started at as high brought low, and yet at the same time freed. Sobhita has cut all her ties, spectacularly, with the family that bought her entry to high society, she is back to being a nobody with only her wits to save her. Arjun has been brought to earth with the vandalization of his offices, the reminder that he is not safe anywhere, and the confrontation with the broken heart that has still not healed from that high school romance. Shivani is literally back on the ground, sleeping with her low class boyfriend instead of chasing a high class jerk. But it’s better that way, they are where they belong in the world instead of pretending to be something they aren’t. They are where Heaven made them to be.
(I’ll be putting up character posts and a “second season-what do we want?” post shortly, look forward to that and save some thoughts for them!)